Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens is typically an author that requires a lot of my attention; it can be hard work. Our Mutual Friend, though, wasn't too bad. Probably not the light reading I should have gone for on that eight hour flight, but it made for an interesting look from airport security when I had to empty out my purse! I digress...

Dickens' scope in characters alone is remarkable in this novel; the middle/lower class of London and it's inhabitants make for the bulk of the story, as we watch them attempt a renegotiating of their stations, by hook or by crook. The silliest of the novels chapters was the Greco-Romanesque chorus, made up of the aristocracy, lords, etc of London life. Their shallow banter highlighted the difference in life experiences to be had based on social status; they cajoled and bantered as the more central characters to the plot struggled for life and love.

Also, Dickens tips his hat to the ever problematic racial issues of London with his character Riah; he continues to persevere in his wisdom despite being scorned by most characters for his being Jewish, and helps to rescue Lizzie Hexam from Bradley Headstone's attentions for a while. I found the saddest moment in the novel to be Riah's conversation with Miss Jenny towards the end of the novel, when he apologizes for having fooled her, but was sad that it was so easy to fool everyone that he was a cold-hearted man, simply because it was expected of Jews.

Dickens' novel is ever mysterious and full of life. While it is a good chunk to read, don't be too intimidated; it's worth the effort!

Our Mutual Friend (Oxford World Classics)
ISBN: 0199536252 

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